Oxford United deservedly went through to the second round of the Carabao Cup thanks to first goals for the club from Marcus Browne and Gavin Whyte in a 2-0 win over Coventry City this evening.
There were positive changes to the line up, including a debut for Jonathan Mitchell in goal after Simon Eastwood's finger injury and assorted debuts: full ones for Cameron Norman, Whyte and Browne, a home one for the excellent Shandon Baptiste in midfield and a seasonal one for John Mousinho, captaining the side from centre-half.
The changes proved just what was needed. Norman's long throws are a useful addition to the armoury and both Mousinho and Rob Dickie had early headers from set pieces as United attacked in the early stages. Whyte's pace and trickery caught the eye - his willingness to run at defenders and get shots and crosses away make him very dangerous - while Browne worked hard and is extremely comfortable on the ball. Mitchell, meanwhile, had just one meaningful save to make, patting down a Bakayoko effort as the back four limited the Sky Blues to a couple of speculative long-range efforts in the first half.
United had seen plenty of the ball but hadn't truly tested visiting keeper Liam O'Brien in the first half hour, although it did take a great tackle to poke the ball away from Obika on 33 minutes and Dickie powered a header just wide from the corner that followed. However, on 38 minutes they were ahead as Browne capped his first start with a brilliantly taken goal. James Henry, last season's top scorer, made it with the most inviting of crosses and Browne wasn't going to let a covering defender get in his way, powering past him to meet the ball perfectly and smash his header past the helpless O'Brien.
Five minutes into the second half and it was 2-0. Browne or Whyte? Doesn't matter, United had the Coventry defence on toast as Henry once again became the provider, biding his time before rolling a perfect pass into the right channel for Whyte to accelerate on to. Nobody was going to catch him and the finish was excellent, precisely planting the ball beyond the onrushing O'Brien to open his United account.
Coventry sub Jordan Ponticelli did get the ball past Mitchell only for an offside flag to curtail the Coventry celebrations but that decision seemed to knock the stuffing out of Mark Robins' side and they rarely looked like troubling the assured Mitchell after that.
On Saturday, Karl Robinson spoke about his players having to get match sharp in games, so it was little surprise to see the hugely impressive Browne replaced after an hour and Whyte after 75 minutes, with 16-year-old Fabio Lopes coming on for a debut that made him one of the youngest players ever to play for the club. It perhaps slowed the forward momentum a little, although fellow sub Sam Smith forced O'Brien into a good save on 83, but the job was done by then and United, winners 32 years ago, were through to Thursday's second round draw.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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